Goodbye to Schweinsteiger

It was with shock that supporters of this Major League Soccer club received the news when Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from football this week. He posted on his social media that he will be retiring about an hour before the club announced their return to Soldier Field. This is truly a sad day not only for the club which was placed onto the map due to the performance of this great player but for the world of soccer as a whole. During his career, the 35-year-old German played mostly for Bayern Munich, before moving on to Manchester United for a short stint and then he joined the MLS club, Chicago Fire in 2017.

His Career

While playing most of his career at the European giants on the field, Bayern Munich, Schweinsteiger has won seven German Cups and eight Bundesliga titles as well as the 2013 Champions League titles. Schweinsteiger scored 45 goals during his more than 300 appearances between 2002 and 2015 for Bayern Munich. He also represented his country 121 times on the field and scored 24 goals for Germany, a team which he also captained from 2014 until he left for Manchester United.

At Manchester United, he played 18 teams for the club and won the League Cup as well as the FA Cup before moving to Major League Soccer when he joined the Chicago Fires. At the Fires, Schweinsteiger represented the club 85 times and scored eight goals.

Saying Farewell

Schweinsteiger stated that it is tough for him to say goodbye since he is still very much active. He however also stated that he is looking forward to new challenges in the future and that he will always remain committed to the sport. His announcement was met with Bayern Munich sharing in his nostalgia when they posted a video sharing the highlights of his career from his early days onwards. Joe Mansueto, the owner and chairman of Chicago Fire, stated that Schweinsteiger managed to place his club on the world map. He was also applauded for being an excellent teammate and a great leader with brilliant skills, and he was an exemplary influence on the team.

A Low-Key Retirement

Schweinsteiger kept his retirement plans very low-key, and Fire’s coach Veljko Paunovic was informed only a few hours before the team took on Orlando City in their final season match. The German only shared the news after the game was over with his teammates. Paunovic stated that the star has always sustained a high level of professionalism on and off the field and that he made a significant impact as the influencer on the younger players in the club. Now he has the tremendously difficult task to find a replacement player for such an excellent star, and it is an almost impossible task.

Schweinsteiger stays in Chicago with his wife and former tennis star Ana Ivanovic. They have two sons who were both born in the city. Schweinsteiger earned an annual salary of $5.6 million which made him the fifth highest-paid player in Major League Soccer.

Jamie Vardy Exceeding Renaldo

For a long time, Christiano Ronaldo has been one of the top goal scorers in the Premier League, but this weekend he was forced to move down one in the rankings by no other than a former amateur footballer, Jamie Vardy. To top it all off, Vardy managed his record amount of goals in fewer games than what Ronaldo could do it in.

It wasn’t that long ago that Jamie Vardy was running out on the field for the Stockbridge Park Steels. They are a football club in the seventh division in English soccer. Since those days, the 32-year-old striker came a long way. Vardy started playing for the Stocksbridge Park Steels when he was 16 years old. Here he spent three years before he moved on to H.C. Halifax Town. In this Northern Premier League club, Vardy scored 25 goals and won the Player’s Player of the Year award of the club. Then he spent some time at Fleetwood Town before moving on to Leicester City in 2012. His non-league transfer fee was a record-setting £1 million. Money well spent since he played a vital role in the club winning the Championship in 2014. Now Vardy has placed Leicester City once again in the limelight.

Setting a New Record

On Sunday the 29th of September, Leicester City was up against Newcastle United. Vardy scored two of the five goals in their 5-0 victory. With these two goals, he surpassed Ronaldo’s record of Premier League goals. Vardy’s first goal was a finish from the inside of the box and the second goal was a header. These two goals tallied his total amount of goals in the English top division to 85 goals, just one more than Ronaldo’s total of 84. In addition to this, one must also note that Vardy entered the Premier League is already 27 years old. Vardy managed to achieve his record in a total of 183 games compared to the five-time winner of the Ballon d’Or who needed 196 games to make his record. Vardy’s number of goals also placed him on par with Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard, the duo from Chelsea. He is also one ahead of Carlos Tevez, the former Manchester United and Man City striker.

A Gamble Which Worked Out Well

When Leicester City paid the transfer fee for Vardy which was considered to be a record high at the time, they took a gamble on him. This became a gamble that brought on high returns. During his first two seasons, Vardy managed to score 20 goals for his club. During the 2015-2016 season though, he came into his full potential under the guidance of Claudio Ranieri, and he scored 24 goals for Leicester City. This achievement helped them in getting promoted to the Premier League. His excellent performance meant that it was no surprise that he won Player of the Season award for that year.

Fifa Sanctions Coming

In the aftermath of the very glitzy “The Best Awards” hosted in Milan at the Teatro Alla Scala. This is an event where the top footballers, as well as coaches, get recognized. FIFA is threatening to sanction some of the national federations. Their reason for concern is how voting polls are managed.

FIFA expressed their concern about the voting process and found the integrity of the voting process questionable. They stated that they deem the entire process as being unfair and quite misleading. The voting process is following a structure where the winners of both the best men’s player as well as the best coach are selected by a global jury which consists of many voters. These voters are represented by one coach per team, as well as the captains of all these teams. Each territory which is represented by a national organization also has one specialist journalist on the voting jury.

All fans who are registered on FIFA.com can cast their vote. Concerns had risen only mere days before the ceremony when captain Juan Barrera from the team of Nicaragua made an announcement on his social media about the fact that he hasn’t cast his vote. His vote seems to be cast by Manuel Rosas, and Barrera’s names were wrongfully submitted. FENIFUT soon reacted with an apology also on their social media platforms, stating that they apologize for the misunderstanding and that it was an administrative error which caused confusion and annoyance.

More Unrecorded Votes

Shortly after this occurred, it came to light that the votes cast by Shawky Gharib, coach to the Egyptian team and team captain Ahmed Elmohamady were never taken into account. The reason for this was apparently because their votes were signed in capital letters, which is against the voting rules set by FIFA. These two who represent the Egyptian Football Association voted for Mohammad Salah, their fellow countryman and forwarded to Liverpool. FIFA stated that this vote went unrecorded because the EFA’s forms didn’t carry the mandatory signature of the general secretary of their federation. According to FIFA they also made contact twice with the EFA to obtain the necessary forms before the cut-off date of the 21st of August. This didn’t happen though, and their votes weren’t counted.

FIFA stated that these and a number more votes will be investigated and if it is evident that the set-out rules of the federation weren’t followed in the voting process, they will apply sanctions to these national federations as needed. The winners of the prestigious event were Lionel Messi as the best player, and Megan Rapinoe received the award as a best female player. Jurgen Klopp won the best manager award, and Jill Ellis received the distinction as the best female coach.

Manchester City Fails

During the past weekend, Norwich City had a glorious moment of victory over the world leaders, Manchester City, when the novices took them on in what was believed an impossible mission on their home territory. A final score of 3-2 in Norwich’s favour left the fans in disbelief for a while before the celebration of this historic victory took off. Now Norwich City manager, Daniel Farke warns his team to remain humble.

Farke is entirely aware of the challenges which still lies ahead for his team, and he doesn’t want them to lose their focus now. Next, they are up against Burnley and then follows more severe competition against Crystal Palace, Aston Villa as well as Bournemouth. The additional pressure on the team to perform again as they did against Man City is another concerning factor to the manager. Farke doesn’t want the expectations of the team to shift in any manner now after their victory and is stopping the notion in its tread both outside and inside of his club.

Having a Fair Chance

Farke stated that they are fully aware of all the challenges which are still lying ahead of them. He also mentioned that they are still the underdogs in the league and just only winning one major game is in no way indicative of them winning the title of Premier League. His team needs to remain humble at all times, remembering that they were only recently promoted into the league. Even though he is glad for his team and wants them to savour the moment of their victory, they shouldn’t ponder too long on celebrating and then slack on preparing for their next clash. Each game offers the opportunity to greatness, but each game also delivers its challenges.

Stay Humble but Confident

Even though Farke is pressing his team to remain humble, he does want them to transform the confidence which winning such an epic game in front of a home crowd, to their advantage. He wants his team to play a game where they are confident in themselves and their ability, but never overconfident. Each game is different, each game delivers new challenges, and to be able to adapt quickly, the lads need to have both feet on the ground.

Farke also stated that the club is playing against a couple of big clubs early on in the season. That is another influencing factor to their quality of play. For now, however, he is more concerned to be prepared for every game which is on the roster and to ensure that every single player is delivering a peak and consistent performance, than with who they are competing against. Farke is also evident in the fact that he wants his team to enjoy every game which they play. That is the positive and humble attitude which he is trying to instil in his side.

Premier League Deal Leads to Arrests

Suspicion regarding the transfer of Aleksandar Mitrovic, the Serbian striker, to Newcastle United lead to several raids in the cities of Monaco, London and Belgium this week. Two people were arrested during these raids, including an agent. The police suspected that money-laundering took place already during 2015 when Mitrovic moved from Anderlecht in a transfer to St James Park for the amount of £13 million.

The investigation started already early on during the year. Initially, the headquarters of Belgian FA was raided. During this week further raids were done of which four were done in Monaco, one was done in London and two in Belgium. The entire investigation is done in collaboration with the Belgian anti-corruption judge as well as Belgian tax officials and police. The assistance of British revenue officers and customs and the Metropolitan Police was also given in the probe.

Anderlecht under Suspicion

Although the details are still a bit uncertain at this stage, it seems that there are more transfers from Anderlecht which came under suspicion. At this stage, the assignments for Romelu Lukaku in 2011 to Chelsea as well as the transfer which took place during the previous season when Leander Dedoncker moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers are also under suspicion. Currently, Youri Tielemans is playing for Leicester City, but his transfer to Monaco during 2017, is also being investigated. The investigations into these transfers are linked to suspected bribe money which has been paid to officials at Anderlecht who assisted in facilitating the assignments of these players. These investigations into the activities and various parties involved with Anderlecht, could not be coming at a worse time for the club. Currently, they are experiencing an intense low in performance on the field and is only rated at number 13 within their league due to only being able to achieve one victory from six games played.

Arrested Parties

At the moment, the main focus in the investigation seems to be Christophe Henrotay. The agent is one of the parties arrested during one of the raids which took place in Monaco. It appears that his extradition back to Belgium is being arranged, while several assets including a Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche, boat and apartments have been taken. Henrotay is not only the agent of Thibaut Courtois but is also linked to Yannick Ferreira Carrasco. Carrasco was supposed to make a high profile move during the summer season, yet the move never materialized. He is also linked as the agent to Kevin Mirallas and Dieumerci Mbokani as well being a consultant to Daniel van Buyten. Another arrest which was made in Belgium is an associate of Henrotay, Christopher Cheniaux.

Even though this investigation is unrelated to the 2018 scandal which shook the Belgian football world when financial fraud, as well as match-fixing, was investigated, it does reflect badly once again on the local Belgium soccer scene.

Chelsea Making an Offer to Aussie Sam Kerr

The 25-year old Australian striker has made some dangerous waves in the world of football over the past couple of years. She has not only inspired young talent with her skills and abilities but also became the face identified with both Perth Glory as well as the Matildas. Currently, she is playing in the United States in the National Women’s Soccer League for the Chicago Red Stars, where she is still contracted to play six more season games. After that, she will return to Perth, where she is recruited to the Football Federation Australia as a marquee player. Currently, she has no contracts binding her to either Perth Glory or the W-League.

The Lure of European Soccer

About two years ago, the French club, Paris Saint-Germain, showed some serious interest in the Australian and at that stage, even Kerr herself thought that maybe this is the end of her return to W-League. Now the interest in Kerr and her brilliant career came from the English giant, Chelsea. Chelsea made Kerr an offer of $1 million over two years. Playing for Chelsea is however much more than getting better pay, for Kerr. This could mean achieving a higher level of success for the striker. Europe is still the core around which the world of soccer rotates, globally. Playing for Chelsea would mean that Kerr would now have the opportunity to become part of the European soccer scene, to play in the English Women’s Super League and to be part of the Champions League, where she will be able to compete against the best teams in Europe.

A Great Loss for Australian Soccer

One person who is all too aware of this offer to Kerr and the effect which it would have on Australian soccer, to see her go, is Tony Pignata, CEO of Perth Glory. Even though he thinks that it is brilliant that such an outstanding player is offered such a great opportunity, it would be a loss for them. Kerr has made a massive impression in the world of football in Australia and contributed significantly to the much higher level of exposure which not only the Matildas but also Perth Glory has been receiving over the past couple of years. He also mentioned that they are waiting for her to finish off her season in the US, but they have been in conversation with her manager already, regarding returning to Perth Glory. Pignata considers Kerr to be one of the best soccer players in the world, and although he wishes her only the best, it would be almost impossible to replace her in his team. Currently, they can’t do much more except to hope that she will decide to return and remain part of the group, although this is probably not the best move she could make to enhance her career. Following the European route remains the possibility of an entirely new level of exposure for her.

St. Louis Joins Major League Soccer

This month saw the edition of St.Louis as the 28th team to Major League Soccer. This very proud moment for the club is placing them in the position where they are the first club to join Major League Soccer which is majority female-owned.

This exciting announcement was made almost at the end of August by commissioner Don Garber. Present at this event was Carolyn Kindle Betz, the president of Enterprise Holdings Foundation as well as Jim Kavanaugh, representing World Wide Technology as CEO and Andy Taylor, the executive chairman for the Enterprise Group and other members of the Taylor family. Between Betz and six other women who form part of the Taylor family, the club of St. Louis is predominantly female-owned. The team will only start as a part of the league during 2022, but they will immediately start working on selecting their team name, colours and badge.

A Challenging Ride

During 2017 the bid which St. Louis had, was getting cold. This city, with a soccer rich tradition, held a referendum to decide upon using $60 million of tax revenue to build a stadium, but the voters decided against it, and that created a significant setback or the investment group at that time, Paul Edgerley. They then ceased their efforts to try and establish a stadium and club within St. Louis.

Now Betz has joined hands with Kavanaugh, who was part of the previous investment group back in 2017 but is now at World Wide Technology and after weeks of negotiations, they achieved success. This success is also significantly founded in the fact that they managed to get the funds for the construction of a stadium from private investors. The stadium will be set in Downtown West District.

The Expansion of Soccer

In recent years the MLS has decided to make expansion into various markets a priority. This is done to ensure the constant growth of the sport. Soccer is receiving growing interest from sports fans in the United States, and the MLS is taking the opportunity to give the process momentum.

Since 2013 when the New York City FC joined the league, the expansion fee was set at $90 million. This has increased since then to an estimated $240 million. The increase is due to more massive crowds at games, broadcasting rights and growing significant sponsorships. According to the former commissioner of the Major League Indoor Soccer which has since become obsolete, Steve Ryan, owning a franchise has changed over time into a very lucrative investment for sports-minded executives.

The St. Louise team will have their home field set at a soccer-specific stadium. This stadium is going to be built in Downtown St. Louis and will be the centre of new development in real estate which is set to be built around the stadium.

The World of Soccer

Over recent years the world of professional football has seen the age of players signing to play professional, dropping to the early to mid-teen years. The latest addition and currently the youngest player to sign, was the Laguna Bay player, Francis Jacobs. Jacobs was merely 14 years, four months and 29 days old when he signed with Orange County SC. That made him the youngest male since Freddy Adu had that title since 2003 when he signed with D.C United. Earlier this year the soccer world also saw Olivia Moultrie turning pro at the age of only 13.

Great Success for the Youngsters

Although some might consider these early signings of professional contracts to be risky, it seems that these young candidates are all considered to be much more mature for their age than the average teenager. Being able to practice and play with professional players with experience on the international level is brilliant exposure for them to prepare them in their careers. As with Orange County SC, who signed Francis Jacobs, these clubs are keen on developing these players. The club members are willing to guide the young stars into a great future. Aaron Cervantes is an example of such a young actor, who was also signed by Orange County SC when he was only 15 years old. His career is excelling rapidly with the much-needed backing and support from his club. Another star who signed on at a young age is Alphonso Davies who signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps when he was 15 years old and since then climbed the ladder of success to a point where he is now playing for Bayern Munich.

Changes in the Sport

Since Freddy Adu was signed in 2003, the soccer world introduced The Development Academy in 2007. The Academy inspired many smaller academies popping up all over the sport, which are all committed to providing a proper development of these young players on all levels. This notion can be seen in both the United States as well as in Canada, and they are creating a favourable ecosystem in the world of soccer for the young players to thrive.

Another point to take note of is the fact that when clubs are signing on these young players, they are fully aware that they aren’t just taking on the talent or skills, but that they need to develop the entire player. Like with Orange County SC, they are willing to work together and provide the support required to establish Jacobs in his entirety as a player. His first opportunity to debut his professional career is set for the 17th of August against the Las Vegas Lights FC, but it remains uncertain whether he will play the entire game or even at all. The club’s management won’t put him under the stress of performing if they aren’t convinced that he is ready, both physically and mentally.

Summer Transfer Window Shut after a Busy Period

Deadline day came and gone, and for some clubs, it was a time of significant investment and others were more on the receiving side. Following is just a sneak peek on what happened during the window period at many selected clubs.

Manchester United

The season started promising but ended up deflated. They had success in acquiring Harry Maguire for a mere £80 million from Leicester, but the midfield needed more additions, and it seems to be a little on the light side now. Their major outs of the period include Romelu Lukaku transferring to Inter for £70 million. His departure also left the team a little light up front too. They had interest in Paulo Dybala, but his price tag seems to be too heavy to complete the deal.

Arsenal

Arsenal seemed to have been able to get to the end of the transfer window period with satisfaction. Their most significant financial investment went into Nicolas Pépé. They transferred him in for £72 million from Lille. Together with Kieran Tierney, moved from Celtic for £25 million, they should provide significant incision from the flank side. Their most significant achievement to trade out was Laurent Koscielny transferred to Bordeaux for £4.6 million.

Liverpool

Klopp expected a quiet season. Last year they have invested tremendously during the period and followed that up with lucrative contract extensions. They managed to surprise the league with the degree to which Klopp took the lack of activity during the transfer period. The only senior addition to Liverpool was transferred from Zwolle. Liverpool paid £1.3 million for Sepp van den Berg.

Ashton Villa

During the period of transfer, Villa spent £146 million on 13 new additions to the club. This money was, however, spent with much thought put into the matter. It is considered to be a strategy from Dean Smith to put the Villa back where it belongs. Their most enormous single financial contribution went to Bournemouth for Tyrone Mings at £26.5 million. Villa didn’t transfer anybody out, although there were a couple of names released, with Glenn Whelan, Alan Hutton and Mile Jedinak being some of the names on that list.

Leicester City

They got paid well for Harry Maguire, but they have left afterwards with too little time to replace him, and now fans are left with the question of who is going to fill his spot in central defence? The rest of the field seems fine with some significant recruitments. Their considerable investment went into Youri Tielemans for £40 million from Monaco, which is small change compared to the £80 million which they got paid for Harry Maguire from Manchester United.

Everton

It started as productive and well thought through, but then took a turn to what seemed more like a haphazard effort towards the end. Some title-winning players got signed with the highest price paid for Moise Kean at £29 million from Juventus, and their most damaging transfer out was that of Idrissa Gueye who went to PSG for £29 million.

Wayne Rooney to return to England

After what seems to be a struggle for Rooney and his family to settle on the American east coast, he might be coming back to England for a shock return.

Rooney’s Career at DC United

The former English captain is still under contract at DC United until 2021, but it seems that the Rooney family is keen on returning to England and wants to cut their stay short in the United States. Rooney recently became captain at the US club but is now eager to end his contract with DC United earlier than expected. The best time for him to cut the deal short would be to leave at the end of the MLS season at the end of November. That would suit Derby County who is eager to take him on from January onwards.

Derby County

After Rooney arrived in England during the first week in August, it was confirmed by Derby County owner, Mel Morris that Rooney is indeed on the verge of signing their championship club. According to Morris, the decision to sign the former captain of Manchester United as well as England, in the position of player-coach, is done with the full backing of Philip Cocu, the club’s manager. Cocu, formerly playing for Barcelona took over in the manager position from Frank Lampard last month. Derby County was successful in their opening Championship match and managed to achieve a 2-1 win against Huddersfield under Cocu’s management.

Morris also stated that the idea to bring Rooney in was one which was only recently originated. The news that Rooney is keen on returning to England and being in talks with Derby County might spark the interest of other clubs also to get the 33-year-old star to sign with them. Morris is relatively confident that they will settle the deal with Rooney, although he also mentioned that in the industry nothing is for sure until signed. Bringing in Rooney will give Derby County the edge they need through the experience which Rooney has. He remains the country’s record scorer, and he is without any doubt one of the greatest players ever delivered by England and will be a significant asset to any club which he joins.

Rooney Keen on Coaching

Over time Rooney has expressed many times already, his desire to stand in a coaching position. He stated that there are many things which he wants to achieve and being a coach is one of them. When his days of playing is over, he will reassess his possibilities and take it from there again. He also has admitted during June that he has been receiving many offers from clubs both in England as well as in the United States regarding coaching positions. Possibly in only a couple of more days, there will be more certainty regarding Rooney’s decision on where he will spend the near future.